By Chrispin Inambao KATIMA MULILO Several fish farms instituted in an innovative scheme intended to reduce poverty and empower residents in settlements along the Zambezi River in Caprivi could be swamped by floods, while fish face the prospect of being washed away. Last Friday officials from the initiator of the aquaculture project, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, reported a flood of water having gushed towards sandy embankments erected to block the water flowing into the farms at Likunganelo Fish Farm. Likunganelo, a farm in the Lisikili area, boasts three fresh-water fish species such as Tilapia rindarii (red breast), three spot and slippery eel-like catfish. At Litapi Fish Farm in the Musanga area and the one at Kalimbeza settlement only two species, namely Tilapia rindarii and three spot are bred in several production ponds. Last Friday Calvin Mwiya, the Chief Fisheries Research Technician, took along a New Era journalist on a whirlwind visit to Litapi Fish Farm in Katima Rural that is on the brink of being swamped by raging floodwaters noisily slapping against its embankment. By last Friday floods had already swept away a makeshift bridge to Litapi Fish Farm and the water also rushed from the eastern to the western side of the gravel road, making rivulets of water gushing across the road flooding the plain on its western side. And as a result this journalist was compelled to abort the trip even with a 4×4 vehicle and taking part of the trip on foot, wading in fast-flowing water on very treacherous ground. At Litapi the water is temporarily prevented from swamping the farm by sand embankments erected by members of the ten-person team stationed at the farm. Mwiya says as the level of the water is rising at a rapid pace it is just a matter of time before the farm faces a repeat of what happened in 2004. During that year the level of the Zambezi reached 7.04 metres, causing widespread flooding and extensive crop damage and the fish were washed away from the seven ponds at the farm that incurred great losses. But the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources – in providence – advised the farm to harvest the fish and sell it to the residents of nearby villages and those from Katima. But officials are now in a quandary because they have been told to sell only fish weighing 240 grams upwards – and they do not know where to keep fingerlings and fry if the area is going to be flooded, as the other fish farms face a similar fate with little room for escape. The directive from the ministry which was received middle of last week indicated a certain amount of breeding fish stocks be retained for the future sustainability of the farm. Mwiya estimates up to 10 000 fish could be harvested from the ponds but he was also a bit pessimistic as some unknown fishermen are illegally harvesting some of the fish during nocturnal fishing expeditions. In 2005, one of the farms lost a large amount of fish after infighting prompted one embittered employee to contaminate one fishpond with poison. As a consequence, the fish died in large numbers, surfacing with bloated bellies. Though members of the police investigated the case, it still remains a mystery to date. But presently, though members of the three fish farms are said to be working around the clock trying very hard to prevent them from being swamped, it is not a question of if but when the embankments are going to be breached. And more worrying, apart from the water above the ground, they have to deal with equally erosive underground seepages.
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